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How Can We Know the Bible Is Authentic and True?

The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

The authenticity and truth of the Bible are rooted in the belief that it is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, "All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." The term "inspired by God" (Greek: theopneustos) literally means "God-breathed," indicating that the Scriptures originate from God Himself. Consequently, they are trustworthy and reliable.

Moreover, 2 Peter 1:21 reinforces the divine origin of Scripture: "For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." This passage highlights that the human authors of the Bible wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ensuring that their writings were free from error. The inerrancy of the Bible, therefore, is not a claim about every copy or translation but about the original autographs.

Historical Reliability of the Bible

The historical reliability of the Bible is a critical aspect of its authenticity. The Bible contains numerous historical accounts that have been corroborated by archaeological discoveries and external historical records.

Archaeological Evidence

Archaeology has provided substantial evidence supporting the historical reliability of the Bible. For instance, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 significantly bolstered the textual integrity of the Old Testament, demonstrating that the biblical texts have been faithfully preserved over millennia.

The Hittites, mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament (Genesis 23:10; 2 Samuel 11:3), were once thought to be a mythical people due to the lack of historical evidence. However, archaeological excavations in the early 20th century uncovered extensive records of the Hittite civilization, confirming their existence and corroborating the biblical narrative.

The Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a man who had been infirm for 38 years (John 5:1-15), was long considered a symbolic or mythical location. However, excavations in Jerusalem have revealed the pool with its five porticoes, matching the description in John's Gospel and validating the historical accuracy of the account.

External Historical Sources

External historical sources from non-Christian writers also provide evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote about the persecution of Christians under Nero and mentioned Christus (Christ) who "suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate." This aligns with the New Testament accounts of Jesus' crucifixion and the subsequent growth of the Christian movement.

Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, also references Jesus and His followers. In his work "Antiquities of the Jews," Josephus writes, "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive."

Fulfillment of Prophecy

The fulfillment of prophecy is a unique characteristic of the Bible that provides strong evidence for its divine inspiration and authenticity. The Bible contains numerous prophecies that have been fulfilled with remarkable accuracy, demonstrating that they are not the result of human guesswork but of divine revelation.

Messianic Prophecies

One of the most compelling areas of fulfilled prophecy is the Messianic prophecies—predictions about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These prophecies, found throughout the Old Testament, were fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, providing strong evidence for the reliability of Scripture.

Birthplace of the Messiah

The prophet Micah, writing around 700 B.C.E., foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 states, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." This prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 2:1, "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem."

The Virgin Birth

Isaiah 7:14 prophesied the virgin birth of the Messiah, "Therefore Jehovah Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." This prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, as described in Matthew 1:22-23, "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by Jehovah through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'"

Betrayal for Thirty Pieces of Silver

Zechariah 11:12-13 predicted the betrayal of the Messiah for thirty pieces of silver, "I said to them, 'If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!' So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then Jehovah said to me, 'Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.' So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of Jehovah." This prophecy was fulfilled in the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, as recorded in Matthew 26:14-15, "Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?' And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him."

Crucifixion Details

Psalm 22, written by David around 1000 B.C.E., contains several detailed prophecies about the crucifixion of the Messiah. Psalm 22:16-18 states, "For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." These details were fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus, as described in John 19:23-24, "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be.' This was to fulfill the Scripture: 'They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.'"

Resurrection Prophecy

The resurrection of Jesus was also prophesied in the Old Testament. Psalm 16:10 states, "For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay." This prophecy was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, as Peter explained in Acts 2:31-32, "he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses."

Consistency and Coherence of the Biblical Narrative

Despite being written over a span of 1,500 years by more than 40 authors from diverse backgrounds, the Bible exhibits remarkable consistency and coherence. This unity is evident in the overarching narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration that runs throughout the Scriptures. The consistency of themes, prophecies, and teachings across different books and authors points to the divine inspiration of the Bible.

The Prophecy of the Suffering Servant

The prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, written around 700 B.C.E., finds its fulfillment in the New Testament account of Jesus' crucifixion. Isaiah 53:5 states, "But he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed." The precise fulfillment of this prophecy in the life and death of Jesus underscores the coherence and reliability of the biblical narrative.

The Unity of Biblical Themes

The Bible's consistent themes of God's sovereignty, human sin, and the need for redemption demonstrate its divine authorship. The narrative of creation in Genesis, the promise of a Messiah in the prophets, the incarnation of Jesus in the Gospels, and the promise of eternal life in Revelation all contribute to a cohesive and unified message. This thematic unity across diverse authors and historical contexts indicates that the Bible is the product of a singular divine mind.

Textual Integrity and Manuscript Evidence

The textual integrity of the Bible is another critical aspect of its authenticity. Despite the passage of time and the process of transmission, the Bible has been remarkably well-preserved.

Old Testament Manuscripts

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating from the third century B.C.E. to the first century C.E., provided significant evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament text. The scrolls include portions of almost every book of the Old Testament and demonstrate that the text has been transmitted with great fidelity over the centuries.

New Testament Manuscripts

The New Testament is supported by a wealth of manuscript evidence, with over 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and numerous others in various languages. The sheer volume and early dating of these manuscripts allow scholars to reconstruct the original text with a high degree of accuracy. For example, the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, dated to around 125 C.E., contains a fragment of the Gospel of John and provides evidence for the early circulation of the New Testament writings.

Internal Consistency and Eyewitness Testimony

The internal consistency of the Bible and the eyewitness testimony of its authors provide further evidence of its authenticity.

Consistency of the Gospel Accounts

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present a consistent portrait of Jesus, despite their different perspectives and audiences. While there are variations in the details, these differences do not constitute contradictions but rather provide a fuller picture of Jesus' life and ministry. The core message of Jesus' death, resurrection, and divinity remains consistent across all four accounts.

Eyewitness Testimony

The New Testament writers often emphasize their roles as eyewitnesses to the events they describe. John 1:14 states, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Similarly, 1 John 1:1-3 emphasizes the eyewitness nature of John's testimony: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life... we proclaim to you also."

Peter also stresses the importance of eyewitness testimony in 2 Peter 1:16, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." The emphasis on firsthand accounts strengthens the credibility of the biblical narrative.

Addressing Common Objections

Critics often raise objections to the authenticity and truth of the Bible, including claims of contradictions, scientific inaccuracies, and ethical concerns. These objections can be addressed through careful examination of the text and a proper understanding of its context.

Alleged Contradictions

Many alleged contradictions in the Bible can be resolved through a careful examination of the context, language, and cultural background. For example, the different genealogies of Jesus presented in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 have been cited as a contradiction. However, a common explanation is that Matthew records Joseph's genealogy, emphasizing Jesus' legal right to David's throne, while Luke records Mary's genealogy, emphasizing Jesus' biological descent from David.

Scientific Statements in the Bible

The Bible, though not a scientific textbook, contains insights and statements that align with scientific discoveries made thousands of years later. These insights demonstrate the advanced understanding of natural phenomena in the Scriptures, providing further evidence of their divine inspiration.

For example, Isaiah 40:22 states, "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." This reference to the "circle of the earth" aligns with the understanding that the earth is spherical, a fact not commonly accepted until much later in history.

Job 26:7 provides further insight into the earth's position in space: "He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing." This description accurately portrays the earth as suspended in space, a concept that aligns with modern astronomical understanding.

Ethical Concerns

Ethical concerns, such as the Bible's depiction of violence or its treatment of women and slavery, must be understood in their historical and cultural context. The Bible records the realities of ancient societies and God's redemptive work within those contexts. While certain practices described in the Bible reflect the cultural norms of the time, the overarching biblical narrative reveals God's progressive revelation of justice, mercy, and love.

Romans 2:14-15 explains that God's moral law is written on the hearts of all people: "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." This passage highlights the universal and objective nature of biblical morality, which resonates with the human conscience.

The Role of Faith and Reason

While historical, contextual, and textual analyses provide substantial evidence for the authenticity and truth of the Bible, faith also plays a crucial role in accepting these truths. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith in the Bible's reliability is not contrary to reason but is supported by reasonable evidence and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.

Christian apologetics bridges the gap between faith and reason, demonstrating that belief in the Bible is intellectually viable and spiritually enriching. As 1 Peter 3:15 exhorts, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." This call to defend the faith includes providing well-reasoned answers to challenges regarding the authenticity and truth of the Bible.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).



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